The Creative Community

cropped-row-image.pngIn December of last year, Governor Bryant announced that 2014 was to be the year of the creative economy in Mississippi. This celebration will feature events and activities throughout the State in an attempt to highlight the depth and breadth of our creative talent here in Mississippi.

According to Malcolm White, the tourism director for the Mississippi Development Authority, “Mississippi’s creative economy is a direct source of economic growth and wealth, accounting for more than 60,000 jobs across the State.” From tech focused businesses to the culinary arts and our emerging craft beer industry, we have a lot to be proud of as Mississippians.

While I believe that the creative economy is worth celebrating in Mississippi and I am truly blessed to work with some unbelievably creative people; the celebration of our creative economy should not overshadow the need for us to enable creative communities. So, what do I mean by a creative community?

Creative communities are those communities that have shifted from a traditional community context of one where citizens simply pay taxes and receive public services to a place where all engaged individuals play a critical role in the problem-solving process. The individuals of a particular community are heavily engaged in shaping policy, projects, or services based on a very specific community based need. Meaningful and inclusive participation in the process yields better solutions for our highly complex and ever evolving urban sustainability issues.

Creative communities are centrally focused on neighborhood revitalization, realistic economic development and resiliency strategies, environmentally conscious sustainability standards, the preservation and development of affordable housing, inclusive business practices, and economic equality. While there is no formula for effective creative community development, fundamentally, creative community development is place-based problem-solving. It is engaging. It is experimenting. It is reconciling. It is trend and pattern recognition. It is empowering. And most importantly, it is measurable.

Let us celebrate our creative economy Mississippi; but let us also embrace a discussion on what it means to enable creative communities. For a creative economy can only truly flourish in a creative community.

5 thoughts on “The Creative Community

  1. Well said, Matthew! On a side note, I was contacted by Akili Kelly in the Planning and Development Department with the City. He wanted to know how the City of Jackson could join or get involved with Main Street. I have an appointment with him a week from Friday. The National Main Street Center is still reviewing the current Coordinating program structure but this may be good timing.

    Sent from my iPad

    Bob Wilson Mississippi Main Street Association 308 E. Pearl St. Jackson, MS 39201 601-944-0113 601-842-0078 (c)


  2. That is encouraging Bob. There are so many “models” out there for what Jackson could do utilizing Main Street. I would love to see Jackson model an entity off RevBirmingham, that I believe is the coordinating program for Birmingham. I’d very much be interested in assisting with putting this non-profit together, but Jackson must commit funding for something like this. Good luck and let me know how it goes…

  3. Ditto on the well said, Matthew! (And hi BW!) That’s exactly the conversation we have everyday in our offices at the MS Arts Commission. Our newest program at the MAC is the Creative Mississippi Institute (CMI) and the entire reason we exist is to train communities to make the most of their creative assets, in turn cultivating creative communities. There are four places we look for gains – social/individual change, community & civic engagement, physical environments (built, green and natural) and economic development. When you bring all of those pieces to together you create the foundation for sustainable and smart economic growth that reaches out to do the most good for the most people. We believe arts and artists just happen to be one of the best (and most often overlooked) vehicles to get there. Starting with people, connecting to place, seeing it in action is creative placemaking as economic development. And you may be my favorite new person :)

    • Allison, I would love to hear more about what you guys are doing. I have been speaking on effective community development solutions for a little over a year now and much of my practice revolves around this topic (and then how to financce community development projects). I would love to share some of my thoughts with you and your team. Thanks for stopping by the blog too. It is a little disorganized right now, but I am in the process of rebranding it. Let’s grab lunch soon. You can email me at

  4. Measurability is the key. There are several promising collective action/strategic alignment efforts underway in Jackson. Alignment Jackson, which supports public schools, is one example of a data-driven approach with proven results (Alignment Nashville). The city is supporting Alignment Jackson financially, in partnership with United Way and GJCP. There is a similar effort focused on aligning neighborhoods around crime prevention. Stakeholders are beginning the process of assessing our arts and culture resources in a Jackson-focused version of the Creative Economy report. This is the first step toward doing exactly as you suggest — tying the community together to make it stronger and more agile. Some of this depends on the city’s financial support but much of it can be done with creative leadership and funding from the private sector and nonprofit community.

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